The increasing contact between Israeli armed forces and militants fighting in Syria has become a cause for concern for the United Nations, a recent report by the organisation suggests.
Issued by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which maintains the ceasefire between Syria and Israel in the occupied Golan, the report said interactions between Israeli forces and militants could lead to escalations and cause harm to members of the UNDOF deployed to the Golan Heights.
The report stated: "Relative to the previous reporting period, there has been a significant increase in interaction between Israel Defence Forces soldiers and individuals from the Bravo side [Syrian]."
In total, UNDOF observers confirmed 16 interactions between Israeli forces and unknown individuals during the reporting period. "Occurring on four occasions in February, three in March, eight in April and on one occasion in May," the report said.
Unknown individuals, armed and unarmed, accompanied by mules, approached the Israel Defence Forces position and were met by and interacted with Israel Defence Forces personnel. In some instances personnel and supplies were observed to have been transferred in both directions. On all occasions, the unknown individuals and mules returned to the Bravo side.
While UNDOF observers said that they cannot confirm or verify the nature of the interactions mentioned, "as previously reported by UNDOF, there is a concern that such interaction heightens the risk of clashes between the armed groups and the Syrian Arab Armed Forces."